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By Community Affairs Reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia non-profit that advocates for domestic abuse victims is on track to complete a $3-million renovation and expansion project for its transitional housing program.

“Domestic violence housing is essential for the safety of survivors,” says Katie Young-Wildes, director of development and communications at Women Against Abuse, Inc. The group operates Sojourner House, which provides a home for domestic abuse victims for up to 18 months.

“We have confidential locations to make sure clients there are safe from abusive partners,” says Young-Wildes, who notes Sojourner House opened in the 1980s. “The buildings were aging, they were deteriorating and we knew we either needed renovations or we would have to close the facility.”

The $3 million in funding for the renovations comes from multiple sources, including the City of Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development. The money also helped expand the non-profit’s transitional housing offerings from 12 to 15 apartments with a new building called “Leanna’s House” and enhancements like a community room, computers and security cameras that are monitored 24-hours a day.

“Sojourner House is an important resource,” says Young-Wildes, “without it, many of our clients would have no place to go.”

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Sheila Armstrong (credit: Cherri Gregg)

“My eyes were black my mouth was busted, I had a concussion and a broken arm” says Sheila Armstrong, an abuse survivor and mother of two. She recalls the day more than eight years ago when her son’s father beat her with a vacuum cleaner, sending her to Lankenau Hospital. Armstrong says she moved from the hospital into a Women Against Abuse safe haven for 90 days and then to Sojourner House. She stayed there for 18 months and social workers helped her get on her feet.

“Sojourner House help you make a plan,” says Armstrong who once worked as a nursing assistant. “They made me feel safe. I liked that they had an undisclosed location and security. I knew it was far away from my son’s father and his family.”

Young-Wildes says housing for abuse victims is scarce in Philadelphia. She says Women Against Abuse turned down more than 8,000 request for emergency housing last year.

“Domestic violence is an epidemic in Philadelphia,” she says, “Police received more than 140,000 calls for domestic violence last year.”

Construction will be complete later this month. Families should be able to move into the new units by early fall.

For more info on Women Against Abuse, go to www.womenagainstabuse.org.

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